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Common Grammatical Pitfalls on Resumes

Most people pursuing engineering and science careers think that once they have survived the basic grammar and composition courses in high school and college those topics are no longer applicable to their lives. However, when you’re looking for a job –whether co-op, intern, or career - it’s time to dust off those skills once again! This time, rather than writing an essay on your favorite book for English 110, your writing skills will have an immediate practical application – an interview or a job offer.

Proper grammar, particularly noun and verb usage, is essential to creating a top-notch resume and cover letter and creating your image as an educated person. If you want to impress a potential employer, you should demonstrate that you have taken the time to thoroughly proofread the material that you submit to them. This means avoiding grammatical errors as well as spelling mistakes and typos.

Here is a brief review of some of the common areas in which our students tend to make mistakes.

Capital letters:
Common nouns refer to people, places, or things in general or part of a large class of things. Generally, these nouns are preceded by an indefinite article or modifier (a, an, many, some, etc). These nouns should start with a lower case letter. Proper nouns are nouns that identify a SPECIFIC person, place, or thing. Usually, these nouns are NOT preceded by an indefinite article or modifier (a, an, many, some, etc). Proper nouns should start with a capital letter. Here are some examples of the difference:
o Constructed a bridge (common noun) from balsa wood.
o The steel in the Golden Gate Bridge (proper noun) was painted orange.
o Worked for a professor (common noun) to complete the research assignment.
o Worked with Professor Smith (proper noun) to complete the research assignment.
**Helpful tip: Using capital letters arbitrarily does not add emphasis to the word or phrase; it simply adds confusion to the statement that you are trying to make.

Verb tense:
When you are talking about an experience that is not yet completed, such as a project or co-op that you are doing now, the present progressive, or present continuous, tense is used to describe the work. When you are talking about an experience that is complete, such as a previous job experience or an internship, the past tense should be used. Here are some examples:
o Currently completing (present progressive) a product design project this quarter.
o Completed (past tense) a product design project in spring quarter 2008.
o Working (present progressive) 20 hours per week with the Office of International Affairs.
o Worked (past tense) 20 hours per week during summer 2008 with the Office of International Affairs.
**Remember: When in doubt, ask ECS staff members for help.

Two entertaining and useful grammar resources are The Transitive Vampire: a Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, by Karen Elizabeth Gordon and Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss.

“Beware of the person who can't be bothered by details.”
-William Feather
 

Authored by Rachel Ligman.

Categories: Resumes